Did you know that up to 70% of cases of type-2 diabetes could be prevented by making healthy lifestyle changes?

This is according to the Nutrition Information Centre at Stellenbosch University (NICUS).

Here are 15 diet tips from NICUS to help prevent and treat type-2 diabetes:

  1. Include a variety of different foods in every meal to ensure that your diet contains sufficient nutrients and that it is more enjoyable.
  2. Losing as little as five to 10% of your body weight improves insulin resistance. Lose weight if you are overweight, especially before a planned pregnancy.
  3. Eat at least three balanced meals per day.
  4. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day.
  5. Increase your fibre intake by eating:
    • Wholewheat bread and pasta instead of white bread and pasta
    • Brown rice instead of white rice
    • Whole grains (like barley and samp) instead of refined grains
    • Oats, oat bran or wholegrain cereals e.g. high-fibre cereal
    • Lots of vegetables and fruits
    • Legumes (peas, lentils, beans and soya)
  6. People with diabetes may benefit from food with a low glycaemic index (GI) or glycaemic load (GL), as long as it is incorporated into a balanced diet.
  7. Limit your fat intake, especially saturated and trans fats. These include animal and dairy fats, full-cream products, butter, chocolate, coconut, hard margarine, baked goods (such as pies, biscuits and cookies) and palm oils (like coffee creamers and artificial cream). Rather use mono-unsaturated fats in limited amounts (for example use canola or olive oil instead of sunflower oil, or use avocado or peanut butter instead of margarine on bread).
  8. Eat fish two to three times per week and chicken more regularly than red meat.
  9. Follow a mainly plant-based diet and replace meat with legumes (peas, beans, lentils, soy and eggs). Small portions of meat can be eaten, however, avoid processed meat like polony, Vienna sausages and sausage.
  10. Eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day and include as much variety as possible. Eat one fruit at a time and do not drink more than 125 ml fruit juice per day.
  11. Try to have at least two cups of dairy (milk, cottage cheese or yoghurt, or a plant milk alternative) per day. It should preferably be low-fat products, since they contain all the protein and calcium, with less fat.
  12. Use healthy cooking methods, such as raw, boiling, steaming, baking/ grilling in the oven and ‘braaing’, and use as little fat as possible (e.g. margarine, oil, mayonnaise, cream and cheese) during food preparation.
  13. Use small amounts of (or no) salt in food preparation and avoid adding extra salt to cooked food. Rather use herbs, salt-free spices and flavourings. Avoid processed condiments with a high salt content.
  14. Consume alcohol in moderation (one to two glasses a day) and always with a meal.
  15. Manage your sugar intake by limiting or avoiding cake, cold drinks, sweets, cookies, and sugar-sweetened desserts and drinks (including alcohol), which are very high in energy, but low in nutrients.

Related: Give up one thing to reduce type-2 diabetes risk

Women and diabetes

The theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day (14 November) is ‘Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future’.

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With diabetes being the ninth leading cause of death among women globally, NICUS advise women to pay particular attention to their health, especially during pregnancy.

Pregnancy and diabetes

Pregnant women are at risk of developing a specific type of diabetes, called gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). This condition occurs during pregnancy and can lead to serious complications, placing both mother and child at risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Insulin resistance and increased blood sugar levels are common during pregnancy and predispose some women to develop GDM. Poor blood glucose control in pregnancy can be detrimental to the mother’s health, cause birth complications and put the baby at an increased risk of developing obesity and diabetes.

What’s more, approximately half of women with a history of GDM go on to develop type-2 diabetes within five to 10 years after delivery.

Related: Women and diabetes

Risk factors

GDM is more common in:

  • Older women
  • Women who are overweight (BMI above 30)
  • Women who smoke
  • Women who have developed GDM in previous pregnancies
  • Pregnancies that follow closely one after the other
  • Women who have had a previous, unexplained stillbirth
  • Women who have previously had a baby with a very high birth weight (4,5 kg or more)
  • Women with an immediate family member (parent or sibling) with diabetes.

How to reduce the risk of GDM

Pregnant women can follow these tips to reduce their chances of GDM:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight and avoid being overweight
  • Do regular exercise
  • Don’t smoke
  • Allow time between pregnancies
  • Attend the six-week postpartum check-up and have a blood sugar test done

For more information, contact NICUS or a dietitian registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Source: Nutrition Information Centre at Stellenbosch University

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.